The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The UK occupies most of the territory of the British Isles. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland or the UK is the official name of the state which is sometimes referred to as Great Britain or Britain (after its major isle), England (after its major historic part) or the British Isles.

English is the official language. The UK is made up of four countries. They are England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Their capitals are London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast. Every country has its own national emblem. The red rose is the national emblem of England, the thistle is the national emblem of Scotland, the daffodil and the leek are the emblems of Wales and the shamrock (a kind of clover) is the emblem of Ireland.

The UK is an island state in northwestern Europe. The two main islands are Great Britain (in which are England, Wales and Scotland) to the east and Ireland (in which are Northern Ireland and the independent Irish Republic) to the west. They are separated by the Irish Sea.

The UK is a small country (it is twice smaller than France or Spain), with an area of some 244,100 sq. km. The coasts of England are washed by the North Sea, the Irish Sea, the English Channel (or La Manche) and the Strait of Dover (or Pas de Calais).

The surface of the British Isles varies very much. The north of Scotland is mountainous. It's called the Highlands which consist of Scotland, most of Wales, the Pennine Chain and the Lake District. The highest mountains are Ben Nevis (1,343 m) in Scotlandand Snowdon (1,085 m)in Wales. The south of Scotland has beautiful valleys and plains. It is called the Lowlands which comprise southern and eastern England.

Scotland is a land of famous lakes. They are called "lochs" there. The beautiful Loch Lomond is the largest one. Loch Ness attracts millions of tourists by its legendary monster.

There are a lot of rivers in Great Britain, but they aren't very long. The largest of them are the Severn, which flows into the Irish Sea and separates England and Wales, the Clyde, the longest and the most important river in Scotland, the Mersey, the Thames, the Trent and the Ouse. The Thames is the longest and the deepest river and the most important one. London stands on the Thames. The rivers are of great importance for communication and especially for carrying goods.

The climate of the country is mild and humid. The Atlantic Ocean and the warm waters of the Gulf-stream affect the weather of the British Isles. There is much rain and fog here. The weather is so changeable that the English often say that they have no climate but only weather.

Of the four parts which make up Great Britain England is the largest and most densely populated country. Its population is over 62 million people. The UK is inhabited by the English, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish who constitute the British nation. English is not the only language. Scottish, Welsh and Irish are also used.

The UK is a highly developed industrial country with very few mineral resources. It is the largest producer and exporter of machinery, electronics, textile, aircraft and navigation equipment. One of the chief industries of the country is shipbuilding.

Britain’s largest cities are: London, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Bradford, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool and etc.

London is a world business centre, banking centre and the centre of its transport network. There are many cars and buses in London. There is the Tube (an underground) in London too. The underground, constructed in London, was the first underground in the World.

It is also the country’s largest port and cultural centre with numerous museums and theatres. London is home for the headquarters of all government departments. It contains the headquarters of national television networks and of all the national newspapers. The financial services sector is a major source of overall employment in London.

The city is a centre for road, rail, and air (its airports include Heathrow and Gatwick), and it is now linked to the Continent by a high-speed rail line under the English Channel. London still remains one of the world's greatest ports. It exports manufactured goods and imports petroleum, tea, wool, raw sugar, timber, butter, metals, and meat.

London is a great political centre, a great commercial centre, a paradise for theatre-goers and tourists, but it is also a very quiet place with its parks and its ancient buildings, museums and libraries.

Birmingham is Britain’s second largest city and its engineering centre. It produces iron and steel for making cars, ships, aeroplanes and machinery.

In the northern England there are large deposits of coal and iron ore. On the western side, the Manchester area is the world’s leading producer of cotton goods. Manchester was the first city in Great Britain to build an airport in 1929. Manchester has many libraries, museums, art galleries and theatres.

On the eastern side, Leeds, the third largest city and Bradford produce cotton and woolen goods. Further south, Sheffield is a centre of producing steel goods. Further north, around Newcastle, shipbuilding is the major industry.

Liverpool, the "city of ships", is England's second greatest port, ranking after London. The most interesting sight in Liverpool is the docks. They occupy a river frontage of seven miles. The University of Liverpool, established in 1903, is noted for its School of Tropical Medicine. Food processing is developed in Liverpool. And in the music world Liverpool is a well-known name, for it's the home town of "The Beatles".

Great Britain is rich in world-famous places. Cambridge and Oxford are the oldest and famous university cities in Great Britain. Many great men studied in these universities Cromwell, Newton, Byron, Darwin and other. Cambridge and Oxford are considered to be the intellectual centres of Europe.

Stratford-on-Avon is a small town. Its chief points of interest are associated with Shakespeare, the greatest English poet and playwright. Shakespeare was born here in 1564 and here he died in 1616. He was buried in the church at Stratford on the banks of the Avon. The Royal Shakespeare Theatre was opened in Stratford in 1932. Only Shakespeare's plays are performed here. The plays staged in this theatre attract people from all over the world.

Nottingham is connected with the name of legendary hero Robin Hood. Canterbury is situated in Kent is a cathedral city, the cradle of Christian people gloried by Geoffrey Chaucer. Canterbury Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Church of England.

Another historic place in the South is Hastings. It’s a popular resound; it’s famous by the battle of Hastings in 1066. In Southern England are found some of the oldest British settlements and traces of ancient monuments such as Stonehenge.

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument, presumably built by Druids, members of an order of priests in ancient Britain. Stones stand here in circles or are arranged into a horseshoe shape. A great many theories have been advanced but exactly why it was built remains a mystery. Though the scientists consider that Stonehenge was built in order to calculate the annual calendar and seasons.

Edinburgh is a city where the historic past lives side by side with the present. The first thing one can see is a very large hill in the middle of Edinburgh — the Rock. Edinburgh Castle stands on the Rock. It is the most famous building in the city.

Edinburgh is famous for many things: its art galleries, museums, libraries. But it is especially famous for its festivals. The city gets thousands of visitors during the festival period and every theatre, church and school hall is used for drama, music, film or opera. Besides the official festival there is also an unofficial festival. Here the artists are amateurs. Now, the unofficial festival is even bigger and more popular than the official one.

The best-known monument in Edinburgh is the Walter Scott Monument. The famous English writer of historic novels lived and worked here. The monument is in the form of a Gothic spire 200 feet high with a statue of Sir Walter Scott inside this beautiful structure. In the niches of the monument there are 64 statuettes of well-known characters from Scott's novels and poems.

Glasgow is another great Scottish city. It is famous for its shipyards. Glasgow is a great industrial city. It is famous for heavy industry. Besides, it is an important cultural centre. It is noted for its architecture and art galleries.

Cardiff is the capital of Wales and its chief port. Ships come here from all over the world. Cardiff is also a tourist centre. There are some places of interest there: the Castle, National Museum of Wales, New Theatre, Welsh Folk Museum. The Welsh people love singing. That's why Wales is sometimes called "the land of song". One of the Welsh traditions is festivals. Song festivals are very popular and usually gather a lot of people.

The flag of the UK is known as the Union Jack. It has its history. It all began in 1603 when Scotland was joined to England and Wales. The flag is made up of 3 crosses. The upright cross is the Cross of St.George the patron saint of England. The white diagonal cross is the cross of St.Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland. The red diagonal cross is the cross of St.Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. All of them are on the blue background.

Great Britain as every other country has its own customs and traditions which play more important role in the life of people than in other countries. Englishmen are proud of their traditions and they carefully keep them up.

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